An anti-tobacco campaign and rights organisation Thursday protested the government's move to allow Asia Tobacco (Pvt) to invest in an export processing zone.
Asian Tobacco (Pvt) Ltd signed an agreement with Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA) to establish a modern cigarettes and tobacco processing plant in Ishwardi Export Processing Zone with an investment of $2.0 million.
"This investment of $2.0 million will be a blow to Bangladeshi s' public health," the organisation- Voices for Interactive Choice & Empowerment (VOICE)- said in a press statement.
The organisation said it firmly believes such permission to set up yet another tobacco factory in Bangladesh goes directly against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's vision to make Bangladesh a tobacco-free nation by 2040 and her commitment to achieving SDGs by 2030.
If converted, the investment fund of Asian Tobacco (Pvt) Ltd stands at around Tk 170 million, whereas the government spends Tk 305.60 billion for the patients with various tobacco-related diseases every year, VOIE said.
Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, Executive Director of VOICE said, "Permitting a tobacco company to establish a new factory in the country directly contradicts with the Prime Minister's vision and what she said back in 2016 in the South Asian Speaker's Summit on achieving the sustainable development goals. If things continue this way, becoming a tobacco free country by 2040 will remain as a dream."
Bangladesh is a growing economy, and it has become a role model for many developing nations. However, if we continue to permit the ‘death dealers’ to produce more in the name of investment, they will certainly pull down the growth by causing public health damages.
As per this deal, the company will produce annually 1,195 million sticks of cigarettes, cigarette filters, cigarette packet, and cigarette box packet, including 73,205 kilograms tobacco.